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PAGCOR chair says Harry Roque helped Porac POGO hub reapply for license

PAGCOR chair says Harry Roque helped Porac POGO hub reapply license

Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco on Wednesday named former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque as the one who helped the recently-raided POGO firm in Porac, Pampanga reapply for a license.

During the continuation of the Senate investigation into the POGO hubs that were raided, Tengco narrated that sometime in July 2023, Roque accompanied Katherine Cassandra Li Ong, the authorized representative of Lucky South 99, in a meeting in his office to discuss the "problems" about the POGO firm's billing from PAGCOR.

Roque was no longer a public official when the meeting happened.

According to Tengco, Roque and Ong asked him to give the POGO firm a chance to pay their arrears for six months amounting to around US$500,000, which they already paid through Dennis Cunanan, but was not received by PAGCOR.

Cunanan is the former deputy director general of the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC).

Based on documents earlier released by Senator Risa Hontiveros, Cunanan had introduced himself as the "authorized representative" for the Hong Sheng POGO in Bamban and the Lucky South POGO in Porac.

In an earlier statement, Cunanan's counsel Iryl Boco said the former TLRC official "has not been affiliated with any POGO since October 2022." Cunanan also echoed Boco’s remark, saying that he was contracted as an independent consultant to help the companies register for possible POGO operations, adding that the companies at that time were “properly and legally registered.”

Apart from that, Tengco said Roque and Ong asked for the POGO firm license's reapplication as it was set to expire at that time.

PAGCOR Offshore Gaming Licensing Department head Jessa Fernandez, who was with Tengco during the meeting, said Roque contacted her six times to follow up the reapplication of Lucky South 99's license.

But both Tengco and Fernandez clarified that Roque was not pressuring them to grant the license to the said POGO firm.

"Liliwanagin ko din. Si Secretary Roque po'y nandun. Hindi naman po siya nag-pre-pressure. Siya lang din po ay nakikiusap na kung maaari lang ay matulungan 'yung si Cassandra Ong," Tengco said.

"Hindi po siya naman namememwersa. Nakikiusap po siya at very light po naman ang mga conversation namin. Sabi nga niya, sinamahan ko ito at aggrieved party daw nga," he added.

Asked if Roque had made a demand for PAGCOR to issue a permit to Lucky South 99, Fernandez said, "Wala po."

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada also asked if Roque was just doing his job as the legal counsel of Lucky South 99, to which Tengco responded, "Maaari pong ganon."

According to Tengco, Roque was named as the head of Lucky South 99's legal department based on the POGO firm's organizational chart which was submitted for their license reapplication.

Fernandez said Lucky South 99's license reapplication was denied because they found reasons not to grant them one. 

Tengco, without naming names, disclosed that a former Cabinet official "tried to facilitate" the grant of gaming licenses to some illegal POGOs.

In June, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said they found a letter bearing the name of Roque during a search in the Porac POGO hub. 

PAOCC Undersecretary Gilbert Cruz said the letter was dated back in 2021.

PAOCC spokesperson Winston John Casio said Roque served as a lawyer for Whirlwind Corporation which is the company that leased its property to Lucky South 99.

“The document itself is innocent. The document is not of suspicious or criminal nature," Casio said in a news forum.

In a press statement, Roque said he is not and never been a legal counsel of any illegal POGO and was neither a counsel of Lucky South 99.

He said he accompanied Ong in the meeting "because I thought Lucky South--- Whirlwind’s principal---was a victim of estafa. By way of accommodation, I joined Ms. Ong since I was then persuading Whirlwind to invest in two energy projects of which I was the primary proponent."

He added that Ong is Whirlwind’s Corporate Secretary.

"After we were formally retained to represent the company in an ejectment case in September 2023, Ms. Ong signed the pleadings in that case in this capacity. The case remains pending in the Court of Appeals and the Municipal Trial Court of Porac," he said.

He further said Whirlwind "recently retained my firm to quash a search warrant in a residential dwelling in Porac mistakenly described as a “resort” by police authorities."

"As a lawyer, I could not directly engage with the POGO because of a potential conflict of interest and given the soured lease contract between Whirlwind and Lucky South," said Roque.—AOL, GMA Integrated News